“Is there a fine line between optimism and reality?” The band Queen took the world by storm during its reign in the 1970s. They introduced the world to a new type of rock and produced hit songs that are still celebrated and sung today. Of these songs, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is perhaps the most well-known. The six-minute song is an unlikely source of optimism, but upon listening to the mere first verse, I was struck with the lyrics’ undiscovered potential. In these lyrics, I found the metaphorical line between optimism and reality.
Freddie Mercury begins the song by asking, “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?” His rhetorical questions are the same that we must ask ourselves. Are we approaching situations realistically? Are we optimistic in setting our goals? We must ask ourselves these questions before reaching a decision. It is not enough to approach every situation with a singularly realistic point of view. With no optimism, life becomes dreary. However, on the other hand, we must make certain that optimism does not overpower our decisions and goals. Further along in the first verse, Freddie Mercury also sings the line, “Easy come, easy go.” Through this assertion, he perfectly embodies the relationship between realism and optimism. One must be able to handle any situation accordingly, but the person must also have hope that the situation will get better. Not only did Queen release an American icon, they also unlocked the secret to optimism and realism.
Realism is the tendency to accept things as they are. Optimism, at its core, is just realism interspersed with hope. An optimist must be able to look at reality with positivity and hope for a better future. Because of their relationship, optimism and realism co-exist. Being too realistic can be harmful to one’s outlook on life. Imagine a doctor telling someone that they have been diagnosed with cancer and have a slim chance of overcoming the disease. A realist would accept the diagnosis and understand that the survival rate is very low. Yet, is there not more? How can we just accept a dire situation like this, and not hope and work for a better outcome? Because of this, being too realistic is not beneficial to one’s life. One must also sprinkle in a little bit of optimism in every situation encountered. The Optimist Creed states that we must “talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person [we] meet.” In other words, every situation can use a bit of optimism. Through this codependency, one can find the blurred line between optimism and reality.
The stereotypical idea of an optimist is one who never stops smiling, no matter the circumstances. However, this is not an accurate description. True optimists use both optimism and realism to their advantage. They use realism to accept the situation that has been handed to them. They then use optimism to make the situation better. They are able to overlook the negativity and work for a better tomorrow. These optimists may not always be sporting a smile, but they remain hopeful for a better future. They do not solely rely on realism; nor do they solely rely on optimism. Similarly, we all must find the balance between these two philosophies in order to better ourselves.
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” although an unlikely source, has been my inspiration for optimism. This example goes to show that optimism is all around us, we just need to be willing to notice. Simply put, we must look at each situation realistically. Then, just over the horizon, the shining rays of optimism must be found. At that intersection, we all will find the “Fine Line Between Optimism and Reality.”
Optimist International is an international service club organization with almost 3,000 clubs and over 80,000 members in more than 20 countries.
dozen Fenwick students, including members of the Respect Life Club, traveled to
Washington, D.C., last month.
Thirty-three representative of Fenwick High School, including 24 students, attended the 46th annual March for Life on January 22-24 in Washington, D.C. “To represent Fenwick at the March for Life was so special, and I am proud to be a part of this amazing group of students,” states Kate Turner ’21, co-president of the Respect Life Club. “It was so motivating and affirming to see how many people our age had traveled from all over the country to participate in the march. We came home inspired to promote a culture of life and love in our community.”
Ms. Turner’s parents, Deborah and Dan
Turner of Hinsdale, IL, organized the trip; her sister, Mallory ’23, a Fenwick freshman, also attended. (Debbie’s father, the
late Emmett Malloy, Jr., was a
member of the Friars Class of 1953.)
“We will never be able to
repay the Turners for all of the planning and administrative work they
contributed,” praises Social Studies Teacher Gary Richied ’95, who was one of nine adults to attend the trip. “Everything went so smoothly,” Richied
continues, “and all the participants had a transformative, life-affirming
experience because of the passion that this family has for the cause — and the
desire they have to see others affirm human dignity from conception onward. We
would not have been in D.C. without them.”
Mr. Richied, who moderates Fenwick’s Respect Life Club,
reflected: “I am so blessed by God to have witnessed the most beautiful sort of
things. A group of 24 Fenwick students took from morning Mass exactly what they
were supposed to: Fed by the King of Life and Hero of Heroes, they marched in
defense of the most vulnerable: our brothers and sisters in the womb. They were
all heroes that day. And, I echo the words of Fr. Peddicord at the end of our
trip here: I was never more proud to be — in my case — a Fenwick alum, a
Fenwick teacher and Fenwick Director of the Pro-Life Club.”
As Richied mentioned, another
adult chaperone in attendance was Fenwick President Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P.,
who said, “It was important for us to take part
in the March for Life. It was clear for all to see that standing up for life is
not a purely partisan or sectarian matter. It is a matter of human rights and
justice,” Fr. Peddicord continued. “This point was made powerfully when we saw
some marchers carrying signs proclaiming ‘Atheists for Life.’”
Griffin Vrdolyak ’21, a Fenwick junior from Hinsdale, calls his experience at the march “very joy-filled and hopeful. We marched with tens of thousands of people all in support of protecting human life. I was amazed that most of the crowd were young high school and college students,” Vrdolyak notes. “I also enjoyed spending time with and getting to know the other Pro-Life Fenwick students.
WATCH THE WEEKEND’S VIDEO produced by senior Kate Hackett ’20 (Western Springs, IL):
Chalk up another 20-win regular season for Fenwick girls’ basketball Head Coach Dave Power. But he says his young team (23-8, 3-3 in the GCAC) is not finished. In fact, the once injury-plagued Friars finally may be gaining momentum heading into post-season play.
Two weeks ago “marked the first game all season where we had every player fully healthy,” reports alumna and Assistant Coach Erin Power ’07, Dave’s daughter and once a stellar point guard for the Friars. “Sheila Hogan returned from an ACL [rehab]. Lily Reardon was out for several weeks with a separated shoulder. Mia [Caccitolo] had her knee injury. Mira [Schwanke] and Audrey [Hinrichs] both were out with ankle injuries at certain points. Katie Schneider was out for a few games with the flu.”
While their head coach isn’t in the habit of making
excuses, he can confirm the busier-than-normal athletic training room traffic.
“We’ve had at least nine players out for something,” a frustrated, elder Power
says, lamenting that his squad lost games last month that they probably would
have won at full strength. “We’ve had about 15 different starting line-ups this
season. It’s hard to prepare for opponents when key, position players are out,”
he explains, “be they rebounders or shooters.”
The strength of Fenwick’s sometimes-daunting schedule did not help matters. During a particularly difficult stretch in January – one that Athletic Director Scott Thies ’99 referred to as “the gauntlet” — Fenwick lost badly to Montini and then dropped consecutive games to four more Catholic-school rivals: St. Ignatius, Benet (which was close), Mother McAuley and Marist.
The Powers know, as experienced coaches do, that they can control only certain factors when it comes to their teams. Injuries, while preventable, are not necessarily controllable. Age is another element out of their control. Make no mistake: the Friars are young (five sophomores and four juniors). However, the youth is buoyed by strong leadership from upper-classwomen, Dave Power points out, giving a nod to his quartet of seniors, who all are guards: Hogan, Stephanie Morella, Reardon and Schneider.
Like most coaches, the Power duo dislikes distractions. But how do good Catholics say “no” to the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago? When Cardinal Blase Cupich informed Fenwick President Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P. last Thursday that he’d like to attend the next evening’s girls basketball game, the scramble began! But Power really didn’t mind. His Eminence’s presence was icing on the cake for the Friars’ Senior Night. The Cardinal sat on both sides of the bleachers, cheering for the Catholics. Our team was victorious, 58-50, over the Carmel Corsairs of Mundelein (18-8, 3-3).
Another welcome distraction came this past Tuesday night, as Power’s girls capped a four-game winning streak by defeating top-ranked Evanston (20-4, 9-0) in their regular-season finale. A thrilling, half-court buzzer-beater by 6’0″ forward Elise Heneghan (24 pts.), one of the sophomores, sealed the deal: 45-43 in favor of the Friars.
The Wildkits fourth-year head coach is Fenwick alumna and All-Stater Brittany Johnson ’05 (Chicago). Johnson, who played at Boston College, averaged 18 points per game, six rebounds and five steals as a senior for the Friars. “I’m so proud of Britt,” Power beams. “She had a great career at BC and got her master’s degree. Hers is a great success story!”
In a pre-game ceremony, after Power hugged his former-player-turned-opposing-coach, the school officially named the locker room in its Fieldhouse Gym after him. Fenwick President Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P. was in Florida visiting with alumni, but he sent a statement from afar: “It is a privilege to honor Coach Power’s commitment to our community with this dedication, along with a corresponding, generous gift of $500,000. The donor family wishes to remain anonymous, but their gesture truly is heartfelt.” (Read more.)
In Father Peddicord’s stead, President EmeritusFr. Richard LaPata, O.P. ’50 stepped onto the Fenwick hardwood, talking about Dave Power’s legacy and their friendship, which now spans three decades. AD Thies also spoke, sharing stories about how Power has made an impact on his life and continued to pursue excellence relentlessly. “Coach Power [has] impacted so many lives, so many who have gone on to be successful in life,” Thies said.
Of The Power Locker Room naming and half-million-dollar donation, the coach himself says: “The generosity of this person – and I really don’t know who it is – is beyond overwhelming. I’m blown away that someone would be so generous – not for me, but for all the success the program has had; all the wonderful coaches and girls who’ve played for me … all their successes. I think of it as a dedication to them. It’s a great thing for Fenwick!”
One of the coaches sharing Power’s legacy is his late
brother, Bill, who passed away in 2018. Another faithful assistant is Dale
Heidloff, a science teacher at Fenwick who also is the head coach of the girls’
track team and an assistant coach for boy’s golf. “When I first
started coaching with Dave 20 years ago, I had a much different view on
the game of basketball,” Coach Heidloff shares. “I always believed strongly in
playing defense, but Coach Power’s philosophy has always been to just ‘score more
points than the other team.’ This simple philosophy has won him nearly 1,000
games, so I’ve learned to trust the methods, the madness and the magic of Coach
“Beyond the X’s and
O’s, however, I’ve been able to share unforgettable memories with a man who has
become like a brother to me,” Heidloff continues. “We have both been fortunate
enough to share in winning a state championship with our daughters [Kristin ’04 in 2001 and Erin in 2007]
and have had the opportunity to coach the next generation of Friars alongside
our daughters. His coaching legacy speaks for itself, but his true legacy
is the impact he has had on his players and coaches, the fierce loyalty he has
towards those he cares about, and his unwavering commitment to the Fenwick
that coaching with daughter, Erin, at his side these past four years has been
quite special. He adds that her title of assistant coach really is a disservice.
“Erin’s role goes way beyond that,” he says. “She can relate to the young girls
and is the definition of a role model: strong, intelligent and demanding. She
demonstrates [techniques] in practice on the court, which I can’t do so well
anymore. Plus, she knows how to do all that social media stuff!” he laughs.
Fenwick’s Friar Files blog has reported on an “intelligence community alumnus [who] prays the Rosary every morning at 5 a.m.” This Friar spoke last semester with students at Fenwick, and the U.S. government has cleared the school to share the following, somewhat random facts about this mystery person:
He held a leadership position at U.S. Central Command (Department of Defense) before retiring from the U.S. Army in 2001.
He graduated (general engineering) from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and went on to earn a master’s degree in international relations.
He served his country in Operation Desert Storm in the Gulf War (Iraq, 1991), where he earned a Bronze Star. (See photo.)
He managed crises teams during Rwanda’s civil war in the mid-1990s.
He followed and reported on coup attempts (in Paraguay and Suriname, South America) and refugees (from Cuba and Haiti).
He worked in the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and briefed POTUS, the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the National Security Council on military matters.
Describing such a vitae
as “impressive” might be considered a gross under-statement. When he visited
Fenwick history and government classes in October 2019 to talk about
counter-terrorism and the U.S. “intelligence” community, the former Army
infantry officer challenged students to a search contest on finding information
about him. “Try to find me on Google. You won’t. I’m off the grid,” he said. “There
are other people with my name, but they’re not me. If you do find me online, please let me know!”
In military and national-security
contexts, so-called “intelligence” is information that provides an
organization with decision support and, possibly, a strategic advantage. The Federal
Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines intelligence as “information that has
been analyzed and refined so that it is useful to policymakers in making decisions.”
According to the FBI, intelligence is the information itself as well as the
processes used to collect and analyze it.
“What they teach here at Fenwick sets the foundation for your futures.”
“Our job is to tell truth to power,” the alumnus told Fenwick students in an attempt to explain the role of the United States’ intelligence/ counterterrorism communities. The absence of truth leads to abuses of power, he warned, quickly adding that truth and integrity are moral values which align with Fenwick High School’s mission. “What they teach here at Fenwick sets the foundation for your futures,” he assured them.
(Editor’s note: Berwyn, IL Police Officer, Glen Ellyn resident and Fenwick alumnus Charles Schauer was tragically killed on January 20, 2020.)
Thank you all for coming
today to remember the life of Charles Andrew Schauer, who was taken from us so
very suddenly. Chuck was a man beloved by all as evident by the great number of
people in attendance these past several days.
I, Salvador Gamino, am a sergeant
with the Berwyn Police Department. Chuck and I have been fellow officers for 10
years, but our relationship began so much earlier, when I was his freshman high
school wrestling coach at Fenwick in Oak Park. Chuck has been my friend through
all of these years, and as our relationship grew, I actually came to think of
him as family.
Chuck was born on January 25, 1986, ironically 34 years ago today. He is survived by his wife Jessa, son and daughter Charlie and Kyleigh, his parents Charles and Mary, and his sister Kathleen. He attended grammar school here at Saint Vincent Ferrer, and then graduated from Fenwick High School. He attended Western Illinois University before enlisting in the Marines to serve our country where he earned the rank of Lance Corporal. He was deployed overseas during Operation Iraqi Freedom serving our country with honor. After concluding his military career, he became a Police Officer with the Berwyn Police Department. Chuck wore many hats during the course of his police career. He was a Patrol Officer, Evidence Technician, Field Training Officer and a Detective.
Over the past days, we
have probably heard or read the phrase “one in a million” being used to
describe Chuck. From the bottom of my heart, nothing could be truer. Chuck had
no enemies. No one ever had a bad thing to say about him.
Chuck and Jessa met as young undergraduates. His military commitments, that took him overseas twice, kept them from having a traditional courtship, as they were apart while he served our country. Despite this, they thankfully persevered and later married, and their union gave Chuck his greatest joys in life: Charlie and Kyleigh.
His children were his world. A lot of new dad’s shy away from their kids in the ‘baby stage.’ Not Chuck! Jessa said he loved every part of fatherhood. He would spend every day off with the kids. When he found out that Charlie was on the way, he was overjoyed. He couldn’t wait to meet his son. He and Charlie were best friends. Chuck and Charlie truly share a love for baseball. Jessa said they spent hours together playing and practicing. Because of Chuck’s military and police background, he was pretty strict with Charlie. Chuck was big on manners, rules, and respect. Then, along came Kyleigh. Strictness went out the window. This little girl stole her daddy’s heart. Jessa said that Kyleigh had him wrapped around her finger. Kyleigh was his social media star. He would often post his videos of the ‘interviews with Kyleigh’ that he took and the ridiculously cute things that she did and said – these of course brought a smile to everyone that saw them. Chuck truly had so much love for his children. He talked about them to anyone who would listen.
People that are described as generous and caring are said to be willing to ‘give you the shirts off their backs.’ Well, Chuck did one better. He literally gave his friend the pants that he was wearing. One day, when Chuck was ending his shift at the police department, another officer had a wardrobe malfunction, and the zipper and button on his duty pants broke, rendering the pants unsuitable to be worn in public. Chuck went down to the locker room, changed his clothes so he could give his fellow officer the pants that he was wearing so that the other officer could finish his shift. With Chuck, stories like that are common.
His sister, Kathleen, described him as a protective and loving brother. The kind of big brother that was selfless, dependable and, occasionally, a bad influence. She told me the story about one time when their parents went out of town and left Chuck in charge. Chuck swiftly planned a party at their house, leaving no detail unturned. He even had a cleaning service scheduled to come the day after the party. He spread the word, and it travelled fast. The administration at Fenwick heard about the party, and let’s just say strongly ‘urged’ Chuck to cancel it. I chuckled at the story, and asked Kathleen how long their parents were out of town. Before she could answer, his mom shouted from the background “ONE NIGHT. We were gone ONE night! You two made it sound like we were gone for a week.”
As much as Chuck was cut from the same cloth as his father, he was like his mother, Mary, in many ways. His selflessness was a trait that he learned from her. Mary and Chuck would communicate without even speaking. Mary was deeply attuned to her son. She could gauge his mood just by looking at him. They were just in tune with each other on a deep emotional level.
Leading into Catholic Schools Week (Jan. 26 – Feb. 1), a sophomore student shares his Fenwick story – and explains why traveling from La Grange to Oak Park is worth it.
By Jack Henrichs ’22
On a warm spring day at the end of 7th grade, I received a text message from my mom: “We are going to Fenwick’s Open House tomorrow.” Why would I be going there? I live within walking distance between two high school campuses where ALL of my friends would attend.
I argued with my parents until it was pointless. We attended the Open House and, of course, they loved Fenwick. They mentioned strong academics, Catholic values, small class sizes. I don’t remember much about that night, but I did pass the entrance exam that fall. My life was ruined. Or so I thought.
I didn’t even know how to tie a tie on the first day
of school. I kept thinking about how my friends were walking to school, wearing
shorts and T-shirts and excited about high school. I was one of the only kids
from my junior high school at Fenwick. When my dad drove a neighbor and me to the
train station, we passed the public school. I took a car, train and bus to
school. This seemed absurd. But I had been practicing football since the end of
June with my new team, so I was excited about seeing my football friends in my
Joining the football team made my transition to Fenwick so much easier. The first few days of freshman football summer camp were difficult though. I was nervous because I didn’t know a single person on my team. There were kids who were already friends with former elementary and middle school classmates, but there were also kids like me who knew no one around them for the first few practices. After several days of learning plays and running drills, we were all becoming friends. We knew we were going to be with each other for the next four years, and we were excited to prepare for our first high school season.
“Joining the football team made my transition to Fenwick so much easier.”
I entered the school year with a new nickname —“Stork.” Head Freshman Football Coach, Mr. Vruno, approached me before a drill and asked if I knew who “The Stork” was. I had never heard of him, but he explained that Ted Hendricks was a 6’7” outside linebacker (and one of the best NFL players of all time), with my similar height and name. When a football coach gives you a nickname, it sticks. Teammates, classmates and teachers often call me Stork. A mom even called my mom “Mrs. Stork” last year. Joining a team had impacted my experience in ways I never thought it would, and it made my high school experience much easier.
School started and although I didn’t have many of my
football friends in my classes, I saw them in the hallways, and we’d hang out
before school. By the end of the first month of school, I was doing more work
than I had done in my entire middle school life! I adjusted well to new
teachers and classes, and even attending Mass (which was new for me since I
attended a public school). I actually liked the prayers before classes and Mass
was a reminder for me to keep God in my life.
My English teacher, Mr. Schoeph, made the class fun and interesting. He hopped up on desks and acted out stories for us. The grammar lessons were not as entertaining, but I knew they were important. Freshman year is said to be the hardest. And to me, it was. First semester was a challenge, but it prepared me for second semester, which went much smoother. I’m also glad I didn’t have many football friends in my classes because I met so many new people. The school days were busy and exhausting, with football and then basketball after school every day and heavy homework every night. So when the weekend came, it was like a summer day. I felt like I deserved a break because of how hard I had worked.
you want to transfer?’
At the end of the year my parents asked me if I was
happy at Fenwick or if I wanted to transfer. They insisted I give it a try
freshman year and said we would reevaluate the decision in June. Several
friends took the train home with me on the last day of school, and I couldn’t
imagine going to school anywhere else. I still had my neighborhood grade school
friends, and I had my high school friends. It’s the best of both worlds.
Sophomore year has been much easier than freshman year. My workload may seem less, but it’s about the same because I’ve adjusted to the academics and expectations. I played football again this year and am still called “Stork” everywhere I go. I am also looking forward to our football team playing in Dublin [Ireland] in August.
I’ve traveled many ‘roads’ after leaving Fenwick, but I have never forgotten the lessons I learned as a member of the basketball team and particularly the 1966 team that won the Chicago Catholic League title that year – against significant odds.
We won the title in March of ’66; one of many championships won by Fenwick teams throughout its long history. But my own sense as a student of that history is that few of these teams had as amazing and improbable road to a title as we had, and it is that story that I’d like to share and use to reinforce the idea that, although the title was great, it was the ‘lessons learned’ along the way that were more lasting and more important.
As we began the 1965-66-basketball season, we knew we had a well-regarded coach in Bill Shay, but it had been almost 15 years since Fenwick had won a Catholic League Senior (over 5’ 9” players) basketball championship. In fact, the previous season, Fenwick’s Senior team finished at .500 in league play, out of the playoffs, and were maddeningly inconsistent – beating a contender one night and getting blown out another. To be honest, there was cautious optimism at best as we opened the season led by 6’6” senior center Dennis Bresnahan (St. Bernadine – Oak Park), the lone starter from the previous year and who would be joined by three talented underclassmen, including junior forward Joe Grill (Divine Infant – Westchester), junior guard/forward Steve Flanagan (Ascension – Oak Park), and junior guard John Sanderlin (St. Luke – River Forest), who had led their Frosh-Soph team coached by Jerry Hughes to a 20-0 record the year before. Coach Shay knew he might have something special in this young, untested team, but it was mostly a hope.
With Grill and Flanagan, both starting football players, not joining the basketball team until late November, things started out surprisingly rough, losing seven of our first 10 league games, albeit four by three points or less. As ‘ninth man’ on a team that usually played just seven players, my role was to scrimmage against the starters in practice and help prepare them for the games. I knew Grill, Flanagan and Sanderlin from our grammar-school days, and each one was a winner – rarely losing in anything. Both Sanderlin and Flanagan were in the so-called ‘A’ group academically and their basketball ‘IQs’ were just as impressive. Furthermore, even in scrimmages they played to win. I would say the biggest thing that these guys brought to the team was their deep-rooted will to win, a trait perhaps even more important than raw talent. And win we would.
“I always thought that the largest and one of the most impactful classrooms at Fenwick back in the day was the gym – today’s Lawless Gym.”
Mike Shields ’67
The Fenwick auraof excellence
To be a student at Fenwick in the mid-60s was to be surrounded by greatness in one’s teachers and coaches. Tony Lawless, our legendary Athletic Director, had joined Fenwick when it opened in 1929 out of Loyola University and an illustrious basketball career there. He hired swimming coach Dan O’Brien (Class of 1934), whose teams would win 28 straight Catholic League titles; Lawless himself would coach the football teams, which over his 25 years (1932-57) would compile a Rockne-like record of 172-40-6 and a winning percentage of .803. In those years, Fenwick’s football teams would win 14 division titles, five Catholic League titles and three City Championships. In 1950, Lawless selected Bill Shay, another highly successful coach, to lead Fenwick’s basketball teams. I would say Lawless, O’Brien and Shay, all successful intelligent coaches, not only believed in excellence but were very (very) serious guys who helped develop the likes of 1953 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Lattner (Fenwick ’50) at Notre Dame [who also played basketball and ran track in high school], 1964 Olympic Diving Gold Medalist Ken Sitzberger (Fenwick ’63) and legions of other great Fenwick athletes.
As Athletic Director, Lawless had also brilliantly selected 24-year old John Jardine as football coach, and Jardine proceeded to a 45-6-1 record over five years (1959-63) and an epic 40-0 Prep Bowl victory in 1962 over Schurz in front of 91,000 fans at Soldier Field. That type of serious winning ethos was palpable and expected – academically and athletically. Fenwick teams didn’t always win but they all fought very hard to win and, as our 1966 basketball team continued its journey, we all had imbibed the Fenwick ethos of excellence and high expectations. How could we not?
Bill Shay knew we could be great. We weren’t totally sure about that after our string of early season losses but, as the season wore on, our team – led by the steady and outstanding play of our Bresnahan (captain) and the development of the new three underclassmen starters – started to gel. Our practices were grueling, and Coach Shay brought the entire team, starters and non-starters alike, together us as a winning team with his experienced combination of toughness and teaching. As an aside, there were many nights after a long practice when several of us, including Sanderlin, would stand in the winter cold at the corner at East Ave. and Madison St. to catch a late West Town bus home. We were all tired, but were growing as a team and we began to win. Significantly, at a certain point, I think the winning attitudes of Grill, Flanagan and Sanderlin really kicked in and created a powerful dynamic of confidence, mental toughness and winning. They knew they were winners and were not going to settle for anything less. Adding to the new dynamic was the amazing development of two young (and tall) sophomores, 6’ 4” Jim Martinkus and 6’ 8” Bob Fittin, who Coach Shay was beginning to gradually work into the line-up: a smart move as they would both play pivotal roles in key games ahead. Our team finished strong with four victories in our last five league games and tied for 2nd place with archrival Loyola in the North Section. So, to get into the four-team Catholic League playoff, we had to beat Loyola, to whom we had lost twice during the season.
The run begins
On the night of March 6th, Fenwick met Loyola at DePaul University’s Alumni Hall with its sunken court (aka ‘basketball pit’) and seating for about 5,000 on the DePaul campus. With Bresnahan and Grill combining for 32 points, Fenwick rolled to a 59-46 victory. We were not surprised as we expected the victory. Now that we were in the league playoffs, next up for us on Saturday night would be St. Rita led by their 6’8” All-American center George Janky, We were wary but still confident. Frankly, we were the only ones who were confident we could beat St. Rita, particularly as we had also lost to them twice in the regular season.
That Saturday night, the entire Fenwick student body showed up and Alumni Hall was jam-packed. I was on the bench with a front-row seat, and the cheering was so loud at times that we could not hear Coach Shay in the huddle. Our team though was so cohesive by then that instincts took over – our guys were determined to beat St. Rita, who frankly did not show us much respect. That would change as the game wore on, and it was clear that Fenwick was ‘in the game’ – and could even win it! After four intense quarters of play, regulation time ended with the score tied 60-60. It was a bit surreal, to be honest. In overtime, neither team scored until the very end; with St. Rita holding the ball for the final shot, guard Sanderlin stole the ball and passed it to Bresnahan, who was fouled. With just four second left, Bresnahan sunk both free throws and Fenwick had won another improbable victory 62-60. Bedlam reigned! Thirty minutes after the game though, Coach Shay brought us ‘back to earth’ and reminded us that we ‘had not won anything yet’ – the ‘only thing’ we did was earn the right to play powerful defending City Champ Mt. Carmel for the Championship. We were not favored.
So on Wednesday night March 16th, 1966, DePaul’s Alumni Hall was packed again with nearly 5,000 fans, including local celebrities such as DePaul Coach Ray Meyer. The game, with a tipoff at 8:30 p.m., was broadcast in prime time across the Chicago area on the new UHF TV channel WFLD. It was ‘a spectacle’ – even bigger then the St. Rita game. Mt. Carmel brought a record of 27-2 into the game while Fenwick’s was 15-11 and we had already lost two early-season games to the Caravan. As much of an underdog as we were on paper, though, I did not feel like an ‘underdog’ and neither did my teammates. Probably the biggest challenge we had was to stay focused and play our game and not get swept up in the spectacle of it all. We seemed to have reached a level at which we felt we could beat anyone. Coach Shay, as always, calmly went over the game plan before the game: shut down All-State guard Greg Carney (he scored just 2 points in the first half), prevent their big All-Chicago center Dave Lewis from getting the ball, and play disciplined offense ourselves with smart shot selections. In the end, although Mt. Carmel came close a few times in the 2nd half, we won the game 62-52, with 32 of those points coming on free throws, particularly impressive in such a pressure-packed atmosphere. This was Fenwick’s first Catholic League Senior Basketball title since 1950 – a truly amazing and historic feat.
Needless to say, euphoria reigned and the team headed back to Fenwick after the game. We probably arrived at the school near midnight as March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day, began. Our bus was greeted in the school parking lot by an epic mob of our fellow students with the festivities continuing in the gym, where so much of our preparation had happened, including lots of ‘blood and sweat’ being spent. Coach Shay introduced each player and student manager on the team, briefly mentioning the person’s contributions, to wild cheering. This was truly a special night to celebrate the coveted Championship and the team effort behind it – players, coaches, students, staff and alumni. One Fenwick!
Back in 1966, the Catholic League Champ played the Pubic League Champ for the City Championship. It was a big deal. As Catholic League champs we would play the Marshall Commandos and their fabulous All-State forward Richard Bradshaw, who had completed an undefeated Public League season before being upset in the State Super-Sectional game by New Trier. Marshall, with its rich basketball history, was pointing to a victory over Fenwick for ‘redemption.’ The game was played on March 27th at the International Amphitheater with TV coverage again by WFLD. Our team came out ready to play, dominating the first half, but leading only 28-27 at halftime. Marshall surged in the second half and won the game 62-56 for the City Championship. One positive that came out of this loss was that two of the Fenwick players that day, sophomores Martinkus and Fittin, would gain invaluable experience from it and just two years later would lead a 25-4 Fenwick team, still coached by Bill Shay, to another Catholic League Championship and then go on to beat the Public League Champ Crane Tech 56-48 for the City Championship!
This season and experience in 1966 taught us much. We certainly learned a great deal academically in the classroom from our Dominican and lay teachers, but to be part of this championship team taught me ‘even more,’ which I carried forward throughout my life and professional career. These early lessons from that season’s experience, which I have in fact used and am sill adding to many years later, might be summarized for me (in no particular order after the first one listed) as follows:
Win or lose, striving for excellence elevates the team and the individuals.
Most success comes from a team effort, being ‘One,’ not just from one ‘star’.
One never knows where the final ‘missing piece’ of a winning team will come from; often the person is ‘on the outside’ and ‘not seen’ at first.
Sometimes it takes time for a great team to gel (we started 3-7 in 1966).
Smart, intelligent coaching, including being creative and trying new approaches when necessary are absolutely essential to winning, when playing ‘dynamic games’.
A team made up of players with a winning attitude, who really want to win, are at a competitive advantage to an ‘all-star’ team (with ‘all star’ resumes) that just show up.
Playing hard and with focus at all times is essential to winning.
The pain of losing is not ‘the end of the world’ – ‘pain’ can motivate and teach a team, which wants to be great, where and how to get better.
The little things, practiced over and over, count (like making 20 pressure-packed free throws in the St. Rita game and 32 free throws in the Mt. Carmel game).
Positive passion and emotion are really helpful to give a person or a team that extra push when their energy level is running low (Bill Shay was a ‘positive’ coach and our Fenwick student body during the 1966 playoffs was very loud and very positive).
“I don’t want to go to anatomy class today,” a Fenwick junior was overheard last month, lamenting in one hallowed hallway of Fenwick. “Why not?” a staff member inquired. “Who’s your teacher?”
“Dr. Riggs,” the student replied. “Her class is so hard! She’s smarter than all of us.”
The 17-year-old has a valid point: Jennifer Riggs was a pediatrician before she embarked on a career change to become a teacher. Riggs earned her M.D. in 1995 from Rush Medical College at Rush University in Chicago. (Her B.S. in psychology came from Indiana University.) For three years, she served as a resident pediatrician at Rush Children’s Hospital on the Near West Side. For the next five years, she commuted northbound to Shriners Children Hospital on Oak Park Ave. In early 2004, Dr. Riggs left the field of medicine to don her “mom hat” and raise her four children.
“My career has transitioned from pediatrician to science teacher: my true calling,” Riggs explains. After deciding to enter the field of education, Riggs went back to school to pursue a master’s degree in teaching, which she earned locally at Dominican University in River Forest almost five years ago. “My decision stemmed from a desire to develop sustained relationships with young people that affords me the opportunity to have a significant impact on their lives.”
After completing her student-teaching assignment at Josephine Locke Elementary School (Chicago), Dr. Riggs taught math, science, technology and religion for one year at St. Edmund Parish School in Oak Park, then moved on to Visitation Catholic School in Elmhurst to teach junior-high life/physical science and religion classes for the next three years. As a sponsor of the Illinois Junior Academy of Science “Science Fair,” she guided more than 100 students in planning, researching and conducting their projects. She also served as the Science Olympiad Head Coach at Visitation.
Dr. Riggs joined the faculty at Fenwick, where she is teaching five classes this academic year: two sections of Accelerated Anatomy & Physiology and three sections of College Prep Anatomy & Physiology. “I am one of the faculty moderators for the Medical Club,” she adds.
A different kind of impact on young lives
As for her decision to become a teacher, “I could not be happier with my career,” Dr. Riggs reports. “Teaching has given me the opportunity to get to know my students on a much deeper level than I knew my patients when I was practicing as a pediatrician. I look forward to coming to school each day because of the energy and enthusiasm shown by the students.
“I see my current position teaching Anatomy and Physiology at Fenwick as the perfect fit for me,” the doctor adds. “From my perspective, the biggest drawback to practicing medicine was the lack of time to really get to know my patients. My appointments tended to be relatively short and I often did not see that child again for a significant period of time (some I never saw again at all). Through teaching at Fenwick, I am able to build meaningful relationships with students. What I find unique about my particular position is that I am able to form those relationships through focusing on a topic I am passionate about: the human body.
“Many of my students are planning careers in the medical field,” Dr. Riggs concludes. “I find nothing more satisfying than sharing my knowledge with them and seeing their enthusiasm about the workings of the human body.”
“The positive, eager attitude of the students and the camaraderie of my fellow teachers and staff were an important chapter in my life.”
How many years were you at Fenwick?
TE: 28 years, arriving in the fall of 1985. I retired in the spring of 2013.
What was your role/what classes did you teach?
TE: The majority of my day was spent as one of the class counselors, but I also taught Freshman English. Sophomore Honors English, along with cafeteria supervisor, were my duties in the later years.
Were you involved with any extra-curricular activities?
TE: At various periods, I was in charge of the National Honor Society, the Yearbook, the Video Yearbook, the Financial Aid Committee and the Fenwick Summer School. I also worked with Mr. Arellano in the Teacher Mentor Program.
How do you describe the Fenwick Community to other people?
TE: What comes closest to a core description is the term and idea of family: a close-knit group of distinct personalities, ages and backgrounds working together toward shared goals.
What do you miss most about Fenwick?
TE: The positive, eager attitude of the students and the camaraderie of my fellow teachers and staff were an important chapter in my life. I do miss these and treasure the memories.
Funniest Fenwick moments?
TE: There are many. Especially clear in my memory are the hilariously creative skits that were performed each year as part of our Homecoming rallies. Also, dress-ups during that whole week added to the fun.
Fondest Fenwick moments?
TE: On a personal level, the joy and lessons I learned from reading all of the students’ essays (both in-class and on college applications). Their dreams, their insights, their struggles-all were special.
With a school-wide focus, I was especially proud of the way the transition from all male to co-ed was handled. Faculty, teachers and students all made the new, lady Friars feel welcome and motivated. And what a success the change has been!
Do you have any words of wisdom for current students?
TE: We all know that at this point in your lives, one of the most powerful influences upon you are your peers — and you upon them. Associate yourself with those who have your best interests at heart; be a force for the good with your friends.
Any wise words or advice for the present faculty, staff or administration?
TE: With a position on our Condo Board, visits to L.A. Fitness three times per week, travel, volunteer work at PADS and other commitments, I’m kept busy. Some contacts with former students and co-workers add to my enjoyments.
On the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a Fenwick junior from Berwyn reflected about the Blessed Mother’s special connection with the oppressed, the impoverished and the powerless.
By Chelsea Quiroga ’21
Today, we gather to celebrate and honor the virgin of
Guadalupe; the mother of Jesus, known to most of us as Mary. Just shy of 500
years ago the virgin of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego, who was an Aztec
peasant who had recently converted to Catholicism, on the hill of tepeyac just
outside of present day Mexico City.
She appeared with a green cloak covered in gold stars
as well as having the same olive complexion of that of the native Juan Diego.
She told him to build a church in honor of her, and he humbly accepted. Juan
Diego went back down the mountain into town to see the bishop and informed him
of his recent encounter.
Juan Diego told the bishop of Mary’s request, and the
bishop was doubtful and asked for Juan Diego to bring him proof of her
existence before he approved any construction. Mary appeared to Juan Diego for
a second time, and she responded to his request for proof by telling him to
gather the wild plants around the hill, which was very dry and desert like. She
told him to put them into his tilma, which was like toga, and not to open it
until he saw the bishop.
Juan Diego listened and carried the dried plants down
the hill, and when he came to the bishop he let down his tilma. In the place of
the dried, wild plants out fell dozens of red roses, and the image of Mary was
imprinted onto his tilma. Soon after, a church in her honor was constructed.
Ten years prior to her visitation to Juan Diego, Mexico had been conquered by
the Spanish and Catholic conversion was pushed onto the natives.
La virgen of Guadalupe’s appearance to a native
peasant caused many similar to Juan Diego to feel a sense of belonging in Catholic
faith and caused Catholicism to spread like wildfire. Mary’s visitation to a
poor native peasant demonstrates God’s love for all backgrounds and the special
connection had with those oppressed, impoverished and powerless. Her visitation
was a triumph and allowed for Mexicans and Latin Americans alike to have a
personal tie to their faith and gain a strong feeling of home with God.